State v. Glenn

Citation481 A.2d 741,194 Conn. 483
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut, v. Jerry K. GLENN.
Decision Date04 September 1984
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut

J. Robert Nastri, Jr., certified legal intern, with whom were Michael R. Sheldon, West Hartford, Peter B. Hance, certified legal intern, and, on the brief, Temmy A. Pieszak, Hartford, certified legal intern, for appellant (defendant).

John F. Cocheo, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was C. Robert Satti, State's Atty. for appellee (state).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

The defendant was convicted after a trial to a jury of the crime of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a. 1 On appeal, he claims that the trial court erred: (1) in allowing certain comments in the state's rebuttal argument to stand over his objection, and (2) in permitting the state to cross-examine the defendant concerning certain prior thefts and an act of vandalism. We find no error.

It is useful for a fuller understanding of our resolution of the claims of error to set out the following circumstances: The victim, Francis Silva, was beaten to death in his New London apartment sometime during the evening of December 6, 1977, or during the early morning hours of December 7, 1977. On the morning of December 7, 1977, he was found dead in his bed, having apparently been bludgeoned to death by an assailant wielding a golf putter which was later found in plain sight lying partially under his bed. 2 When his body was found, it was also determined that his stereo equipment was missing. Silva was a known homosexual, who had lived with or had sexual relations with black men and frequented homosexual bars seeking sex partners. A search of his apartment disclosed four sets of photos of black males, 3 three of which depicted a sexually-aroused male. It was not until October, 1978, after a reward which had been offered in the case was increased, that information implicating the defendant in the commission of this crime was developed. The defendant, a black male, at that time was nineteen years of age, five feet nine inches tall and weighed between 132 and 135 pounds.

The defense maintains that the state's case was developed primarily upon information received from four individuals: Otis Guess, Derek Russ, Angelo Hardy and William Bowers. The defendant, while admitting that each of these individuals based his version of the events on one or more separate conversations which each testified he had had with the defendant, asserts that their collective information gave rise to what he characterizes as "three distinct and mutually contradictory theories as to when, how and why the [defendant] had killed Mr. Silva." While it is true that the jury resolved the disputed questions of fact, including credibility, against the defendant, we refer briefly to these three theories of the defendant to focus more usefully upon the claims of error made. 4 The first theory claimed is that the defendant murdered the victim for an unspecified cause or reason which arose out of a homosexual relationship between the victim and himself. As to the second and third theories, which were allegedly predicated upon the defendant and the victim being strangers who had never engaged in a homosexual relationship, the defendant claims that the state maintained that he committed the crime out of anger after the victim had allegedly propositioned him in his car after the victim had picked up the defendant who was hitchhiking. Under the second theory attributed to the state, the defendant had planned and rehearsed the crime in front of a witness (Otis Guess) at least two weeks before its commission. The third theory was that, on the very night of the alleged unsolicited homosexual advance in the victim's car, the defendant, having left the victim's car, later went to the victim's house and killed him.

Russ testified regarding a conversation with the defendant in which the defendant admitted that he had killed the victim on the morning of December 7, 1977, after having been picked up while hitchhiking earlier by the victim in his car. Russ testified that the defendant had told him the following: While in the victim's car, the victim made an unsolicited homosexual advance, which so angered the defendant that he demanded to be let out of the car. Upon arriving at his home, the defendant was unable to sleep because of his anger and he went to the victim's apartment and killed him.

Besides admitting the murder to him, Russ also said that the defendant told him that he wore gloves in perpetrating the crime and that he also took the victim's stereo and television. Additionally, Russ testified that he had spoken to the defendant at a New London club in 1978 concerning the rumor that the defendant had committed the Silva murder. 5 When Russ questioned the defendant about this, the defendant asked him from whom he had heard this rumor. Russ maintained that he refused to name his source whereupon the defendant rattled off the names of five or six people whom he, the defendant, said could have been the source.

William R. Bowers testified that on December 6, 1977, between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., he had helped the defendant and Donald Glenn, the defendant's younger brother, unload some stereo equipment from a car into the apartment of Cheryl Glenn, the defendant's sister. Upon inquiry by Bowers and Donald Glenn, the defendant admitted that he may have killed the person from whom he had taken the stereo equipment by hitting him on the head with a golf club. At that time, Bowers said, he observed the defendant to be wearing a leather jacket and rubber gloves and to have two speakers with the stereo. He also said that the defendant stated that he had "hit him several times."

Otis Guess testified that the defendant told him of being picked up, while hitchhiking, by a strange man who angered him by propositioning him. He said that the defendant had told him that this angered him and "he was going to kill him, take his stereo, his T.V. and his car." He continued that the defendant "went upstairs, got the golf club and ... [h]e started showing me how he was going to kill him," saying that he was going to hit him on the head. 6

Angelo Hardy testified that the defendant admitted the crime to him when, upon leaving a basketball game in New London with the defendant, he observed that the defendant became nervous because of the presence of police at the exit doors. He asked the defendant the reason for that nervousness and the defendant said it was because of the Silva murder as he was the one who committed that crime. The defendant then related some details including that Silva "was a faggot" and that "he beat the guy with the golf club" which he then threw under the victim's bed.

In addition to claiming that these four witnesses were connected to one another by certain ties of friendship, the defendant also claims that Russ, Bowers and two other state's witnesses, Antonio Valero and George Wunnaburger, had all been questioned as suspects in the Silva homicide. Moreover, he claims that Francois Curiel, a former lover of the victim, had ample motive and opportunity to kill Silva. While the defendant himself admitted on direct examination that he had said that he killed the victim and that there were several people there when he did so, 7 he said that he was merely "woofing" or bragging and that he really did not kill Silva. 8

In order to meet each of the three different theories attributed to the state, the defendant argues that he adduced evidence that supported the two basic themes of his defense. The first claimed theme was that "three of the state's witnesses had themselves been suspected of the killing, and that two of them, along with two other former suspects, were linked together with other state's witnesses by bonds of family, friendship, and a common desire to get the reward money...." 9 The second claimed theme of defense was that the defendant's admission to his friends that he killed Silva "was an idle boast caused by his need to counter his reputation of non-violence and to increase his stature in the eyes of others." 10

During final arguments to the jury, the defendant's counsel referred to the testimony of the defendant's expert witness, John H. Felber, a psychiatrist, and said: "He ... testified that [the defendant] has the kind of a personality--now we are talking about what psychiatrists do--but [the defendant] has the kind of personality that would cause him to woof, to say, brag, talk about, in the company of people who he wanted to appear big before, about things he never did. That's all that Dr. Felber testified to." During this argument, the defendant's counsel, in arguing his claim of the defendant's reputation for nonviolence, stated: "Do you remember at any time Mr. Hurley [the assistant state's attorney] introducing any evidence or asking any questions of any witness as to whether Jerry Glenn was ever convicted of an assault of someone? Was he ever arrested for an assault on someone? For a violent crime? You will search your minds, if you had it you would search the record of this case long and hard and find nothing." 11

In its rebuttal argument, counsel for the state said: "Now Mr. Rose [defendant's counsel], I think, engaged in some unfair argument when he said he [sic] never brought in the fact that Mr. Glenn was ever convicted of an assault. He knows very well that unless somebody is convicted of a felony, that's not admissible, so I can't tell you whether or not he was convicted of an assault unless it was a felony or first or second degree assault. Whether or not he ever committed a third or fourth degree assault, I can't say.

"Mr. Rose: Your Honor, I'm going to object to that, Mr. Hurley has seen the Defendant's record, he knows there is no such conviction, he gave it to me.

"Mr. Hurley: Well, Your...

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